An independent organization is investigating claims of a violent police attack against a gay Congolese refugee in South Africa.
Yesterday the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) confirmed its intent to investigate the claims of a homophobic police brutality against a gay Congolese man.
The victim, 26-year-old refugee Junior Mayema, reported that the two policemen shouted homophobic slurs at him as they beat him with metal poles in a back room of the Claremont police station.
The assault occurred when Mayema tried to report his landlord to the police for homophobic discrimination. His landlord, with whom Mayema shared a house, refused to allow Mayema to have his lover or other male guests visit the home. There were reported incidents that the landlord came into Mayema’s room and physically extracted visitors from the house.
“I went to the police to report this. At first they agreed to come to my place and to confront the landlord. But, then they realised I was gay. Their attitudes changed. They mocked me, swore at me and told me that ‘they make the rules’ when I complained about the poor service,” Mayema told All Africa.
When he threatened to report the police officers and moved to take their phones as evidence, the physicals abuse began.
Mayema went to the hospital two days after the attack out of fear his arm was broken. An x-ray showed no signs of fracture.
Mayema left the Congo because of repeated physical and emotional abuse. He fled to South Africa after hearing about their progressive laws and Constitution, which protect the rights of gays and lesbians. He has been living in South Africa since 2010.
“My only aspiration was to be free, to love who I wanted and to live my life,” Mayema said. “I thought that I could achieve this in South Africa, but [I cannot]. The South Africans, the Congolese, the Department of Home Affairs, and the police – I have faced so much bigotry and abuse. I have been stabbed in the head and, now, beaten by the police who are there to protect us. Even refugees have a right to be protected.”
Now, with the help of Human Rights lawyer Guillain Koko, from refugee rights group People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), Mayema has reported the assault. The investigation is ongoing.